She was somewhat stunned at first at the tidings, but quickly rallied.
"We must find him," she said. "Something has happened to him. Did you think to ask Apgar if he remembered seeing Rex on his train Wednesday night?"
Apgar was the conductor on the 5:30 express.
"No, I'll go down to the station and ask him this afternoon before he goes out."
Roy returned with the announcement that Apgar was sure Rex had not been on his train.
"Then there is only one other theory." Mrs. Pell looked very grave as she spoke.
"What is that, mother?"
She did not reply at once. Reginald was very dear to her. She hated to expose his failings even to his own brother. But it must be done.
"You remember, Roy," she went on, "how he teased me to let him go to New Haven with young Harrington? It is possible he may have gone after all. I wish you would go in next door and see if you can find out."
Roy instantly recalled the three dollars Rex had borrowed from him, but he said nothing of it. He went at once to make his call next door.
He asked for Mrs. Harrington, telling the servant that he wished to see her on a matter of importance. He sent up his name, Roy Pell.
"You are the young man my son speaks of," said Mrs. Harrington when she appeared in the great drawing room, and put up her lorgnette to survey her caller.
"No, that is Reginald, my brother. I called in to find out if he went off to New Haven with your son."
"What! you know nothing of his whereabouts yourselves?"
Mrs. Harrington did not seek to conceal her surprise. Roy felt humiliated, but there was nothing for it but to admit the fact.
"We are afraid he may have gone off without my mother's leave," he said. "He was very anxious to go with your son. He had an invitation to go down to Marley the same day. We thought he had gone, but we find now that he has not been there."
"Your mother did not wish him to go with Dudley, you say?"
There was a trace of severity in Mrs. Harrington's tones.
"She thought he had better not. He is much older than Rex. Do you know whether or not they went off together?"
"I heard Dudley say something about having invited young Pell to go to New Haven with him. They went to the station together."
"Then Rex must have gone. I am very sorry to have troubled you, Mrs. Harrington." Roy now made a little bow, and he hurried off.
"Then he wanted that three dollars from me to spend on the trip," he was saying to himself. "But that wouldn't have been enough. He must have used the money he said he was saving up for mother's present. Ah, Reggie, I didn't think it of you!"
When he told the news at home there was a good deal of discussion concerning what ought to be done about it.
"Let him alone," suggested Jess. "He feels bad enough about it by this time."
"But I don't know when he will be back," said Mrs. Pell.
Eva suggested that they write him a letter in care of young Harrington and request him to come home at once, but it was Sydney's idea that was acted on.
A telegraphic dispatch was sent to Dudley Harrington, Yale, New Haven.
"Is Reginald Pell with you?" it ran.
The answer came duly, "No, he is not."
The family looked at one another, consternation depicted in their faces. Sydney tried to comfort them by explaining that doubtless Harrington was inclined to be very literal under the circumstances and that Rex was not with him because he had just started for home.
But Mrs. Pell was not content to rest under this uncertainty. Another message was sent to New Haven reading thus:
"Did Reginald Pell start away from Philadelphia with you?"
The response to this was one word, "Yes."
The Pells were now really alarmed. It was decided that Sydney should start the first thing: Saturday morning for New Haven, but Friday night he was seized with another of his bad turns, which had been growing more and more frequent of late. Roy offered to go in his place, and Mrs. Pell consented to the substitution.
So Roy set out and reached New Haven in the course of the afternoon. He would have enjoyed the trip if his mind had not been so worried about Rex. He found Harrington's room with little trouble.
He heard the notes of the banjo issuing from inside. He had to knock hard before he could make himself heard.
There were three fellows there, two of them in the luxuriously cushioned window seat. Roy was a little dazzled by the unexpected splendor of the room.
He knew Harrington, of course, the fellow in the blue striped blazer. He went up to the collegian at once.
"I guess you know me," he said. "I'm Roy Pell, Rex's brother. I came up to find out what you could tell me about him."
The three fellows exchanged glances.
"Why, isn't he home?" answered Harrington.
"No. When did he leave New Haven?"
"He hasn't been to New Haven," replied Harrington slowly.
"Not been here!" exclaimed Roy. "Where did you leave him, then?"
"In New York."
"Was he going home?"
"I don't know," and Harrington looked confused as he made this unsatisfactory answer.
Roy saw at a glance that something was being concealed from him.
"How is it you don't know where Rex went when he left you?" he inquired.
"Well, I didn't see which way he went when he left the hotel," answered Harrington. "I supposed though, he went home, and am surprised to hear he isn't there. Atkins, here, may be able to tell you more than I can. Mr. Atkins, this is Roy Pell, Reggie's brother."
The pleasantest faced fellow in the room came forward and put out his hand.
"I'm glad to meet you, Pell," he said, "and wish I could give you some definite information about your brother. I thought with Harri here that he was certainly at home." He glanced over at the other two, who were softly strumming their banjoes in the window seat. "Come across the hall into my room," he added.
"Good day, Mr. Harrington," called out Roy, and followed Atkins.
He could see that Harrington was relieved to have him go.
"Now I'll tell you the straight of it, Pell," began Atkins, when he had invited his visitor to make himself comfortable in one of the many lounging chairs with which the apartment abounded. "You see, Harrington brought your brother to one of the pre-term time jollifications some of the fellows think they must have before coming up here. I was there. I didn't care about going very much, but my room mate would go, and I went to take care of him more than anything else.
"Well, all the fellows except your brother and myself were more than half seas over before midnight. He became disgusted and got out. I was busy with Cheever, and didn't have time to question him. Naturally Harrington feels a little sore over the thing. But he hadn't any idea your brother hadn't gone home till he got your telegrams."
"But Rex— where do you suppose he is all this time?" Roy was terribly anxious. The whole affair was much worse than he had anticipated.
He was glad of one thing, though; that Rex had been disgusted with the orgy.
"I wish I could tell you," answered Atkins. "I managed to get Cheever over to our house before morning. I don't know what Harrington said about young Pell's disappearance when he came to himself."
"What did Reggie want to go with such fellows for?" groaned Roy. "But the wonder to me is why Harrington ever took him up. There must be at least five years' difference in their ages."
"Oh, Harri appeared to be quite fond of him. I guess your brother flattered him some. Dudley can stand a deal of that."
"But I must find Rex. I'm sure he hadn't money enough to keep him all this while. And I don't know where to look first."
"I wish I could help you," returned Atkins. "I tell you what I'll do. I'll get ready now and go down to New York with you. You can come to our house and stay over Sunday with me. My father is a lawyer. He may be able to tell us what to do. What do you say?"
"You're awfully kind," returned Roy. "But I don't like to intrude."
"It won't be intruding. The pater likes me to bring fellows with me. I wasn't going this week, but that won't matter. He'll be glad to see me. You'll come, won't you?"
Roy thanked him again and accepted. He liked the genial hearted fellow as much as Rex had done.
On the way down Atkins told him of the devices for disposing of the punch.
"You don't suppose the glass he drank went to his head so as to do him any injury, do you?" asked Roy.
Atkins reassured him on this point, and then suggested that they had better go to the hotel where the jollification had been held to see if any trace of Rex could be obtained there.
But the clerk informed them that no such person had hired a room.
That evening they discussed the matter with Judge Atkins without telling the details of the jollification, which doubtless he was astute enough to guess at. The result was that messages were sent to all the police precincts, and a detective was put on the case.
Roy sent a telegram to his mother Saturday night making it as hopeful as he could, but his own heart was growing heavier and heavier.
Atkins did his best to cheer him up, and under other circumstances Roy would have had a most enjoyable time. But he could not keep his thoughts from Rex.
He went home on Monday, fearful of the meeting with his mother. He felt at times as if the worst news, if it might be but definite, would be better to carry home than those tidings he must take, which would keep them all in such awful suspense.
Sydney had recovered, but the shock of Roy's announcement threw him back into a relapse. And yet he insisted on seeing Roy.
"Mr. Tyler's money has not made us happy after all, has it, Roy?" he said, after the sad affair had been talked over.
"I was afraid that it wouldn't, Syd. Still, this might have happened just the same. You have not been well though, old fellow, since that night you came over to Burdock to make the old man's will."
"Have you noticed that, Roy?" said Sydney quickly.
"Yes, it seems, as you say, that we must pay up for having the money in some way. But where can poor Rex be? I wonder if he is ashamed or afraid to come home?"
Anxiously the reports from the detectives were awaited. But when they came they were only depressing. Positively no trace of the missing boy could be found.
Advertisements were inserted in the New York and Philadelphia papers, but nothing came of them. The family were by this time well nigh distracted. They had not even the poor satisfaction of mourning the lost as one dead. They could only wait and hope, but as the days passed into a week, this last seemed futile.
The time came for school to open, but Roy had little heart to go alone. Still, he must attend to his education.
The first week of it dragged slowly by. Some of his Marley friends wanted him to come down there and spend his Saturday.
He had not yet decided Friday night whether he wanted to go, when the door bell rang, and a messenger appeared with a telegram for Roy Pell.
It was dated at some town in Jersey of which he had never heard, and was very brief, but the one word signed to it was worth a hundred lines, for that name was "Rex."
"All safe. Will write soon."
That was all, and when he read it to the family, the wild exclamations of joy were succeeded by perplexed impatience.
"Why didn't he tell us where to find him?" Eva wanted to know.
"Why didn't he send word to mother?" added Jess.
"Why does he not explain his long silence?" said Mrs. Fell fearing the worst.
Sydney was away at Harrisburg, and Roy decided that instead of going to Marley the following day, he would find out where this New Jersey town was and hunt up Rex at once.
Mrs. Pell wanted to go with him, but Roy reminded her that he might have considerable difficulty in tracing Rex, so it was decided that she wait until she heard from him.
From a railroad time table Roy ascertained where he must go, and by the first train he could get in the morning he set out.
"Be very gentle with him, Roy," his mother said at parting. "By his sending to you he evidently thinks I am greatly displeased with him."
"Trust me, mother," Roy assured her with a smile.
He felt very happy this morning, happier than he had, it seemed to him, since they had come into their fortune. Of such worth is sorrow sometimes, to make a contrast by which to intensify joy.
On arriving at his destination he went to the man in the ticket office and put the following inquiry:
"Do you know anybody in the place named Reginald Pell?"
"No," was the reply. "Has he lived here long?"
"No, he doesn't really live here. He's my twin brother, you see, and I have a telegram from him, but he didn't say where he was staying. Is this a very big place?"
The ticket agent smiled. "Well, it isn't exactly a metropolis," he said.
"Thank you," responded Roy, and he walked out of the rear door toward the dusty road, thinking he was not going to have such an easy job to find Rex after all, if he was in the town where he was supposed to be.
The station was built at a little distance from the town proper. Roy walked on along a board walk until he came to the first house, one of those white, green shuttered affairs whose number is legion in the rural districts.
A woman without a hat on was sweeping the leaves from the path that led down to the gate. The lines about her mouth were rather stern, but Roy made up his mind to begin with her.
FOUND AT LAST
"Excuse me," began Roy, leaning over the gate and taking off his broad brimmed straw hat, "do you know a boy named Rex Pell?"
He had decided that this would be the shortest way of getting at things.
The woman looked up quickly, resting her chin on the top of her broom handle.
"Do you think I look as if I knew much about boys?" she replied. "Well, I don't and I don't want to."
"Excuse me," said Roy, and he hurried on, glad to get away.
The next house was a larger one. There was a good deal of piazza around it and some pretensions were made at keeping the lawn in good condition.
Roy's knock at the door was answered so promptly that he was fain to believe that some one must have been peeping through the shutters watching his approach.
A tall woman with light hair received him very effusively.
"I've been expecting you," she said, with an expansive smile. "I thought you'd come on that train."
"This must be the place," thought Roy. "She knows Rex sent the dispatch and thought some of us would come on."
"I suppose you'd like to go straight up stairs?" she continued, when she had taken his hat and hung it on the stand in the hall.
"Yes, I would," and Roy's heart sank.
Rex must be sick, he decided, and not able to leave his bed. He followed the light haired woman to the floor above, where she threw open the door of a room with a sort of flourish.
Roy halted on the threshold. There was a double bed inside, but nobody on it nor was anybody to be seen in the apartment.
"Where is my brother?" he asked.
"Your brother?" exclaimed the woman. "I did not understand that there were two of you. Your father's letter mentioned only one son. Wait, I will get—"
"No, there must be some mistake," Roy interposed. "I thought my brother, Rex Pell, might be here."
"What, you are not Eric Levens, then?"
"No, indeed, and don't you know anything about my brother? I am so sorry."
"I thought you were the young gentleman I expected who was to look at this room to see whether he liked it well enough to stay while his father went to Europe. But why are you sorry that I do not know anything about your brother? Have you lost him?"
"In a sort of a way, yes," and Roy told his story, or as much of it as he could, without bringing in the fact of Rex's having run away from home.
"Oh, I guess I can help you," exclaimed the woman, when he had finished. "Maybe he is the young fellow who is staying at the Raynors'. I heard about it last Sunday at church."
"About it? About what?"
Roy's face grew pale. The woman looked a little uncomfortable.
"Don't be too anxious," she replied. "He must be better now if he could send a message. But he's had the intermittent fever. He was found on the piazza of the house one rainy evening about ten days ago by Florence Raynor. A trampish looking young fellow had carried him in out of the wet, and they say he's been devoted to him ever since."
"Where do the Raynors live?" asked Roy, already impatient to be off.
"Come here to the window and I can show you the house. It is clear at the end of this street beyond all the others. You can just see the chimneys above the trees."
Roy was soon hurrying away in the direction pointed out.
Although he feared that Rex might have been ill, the certainty of it made his heart very sore for his brother.
"Sick among strangers!" was his thought. "I wish mother had come with me."
A young girl was reading on the piazza when he opened the gate and walked up the path between the box hedges.
"Is my brother Rex here?" he said, pausing at the foot of the steps, his hat in his hand.
She had raised her head as the gate latch clicked, and now their eyes met. Even in that moment Roy noted how very pretty she was.
"You are the Roy that he sent the telegram to?" she exclaimed. Then paused suddenly, and blushed.
"Yes, I'm Roy, and I've had a hard time to find him. How is he?"
"He's better. He was asleep just now. If you will come in I will call mother."
"Rex has certainly fallen into good hands," thought Roy when he was left alone.
Mrs. Raynor came out in a moment and greeted Roy most cordially.
"I'm glad you came," she said. "It will do your brother good to see you,"
"You've been very, very kind to him," answered Roy.
"No; it wasn't any trouble, because we all took to him so. It was a pleasure to do for him."
"But why didn't he let us know before where he was?" asked Roy.
"Bless you, he only knew himself yesterday. He's had a hard tug of it, and not a scrap or a card could we find about him, only the letters R. B. P. P, on his linen."
"Then he's been out of his head?"
"Yes; and you must be prepared to find him greatly changed. But he'll come around again all right, the doctor says. I'll go up now and see if he is awake and call you."
The summons to ascend came a few minutes later, and presently Roy found himself standing by his brother's bedside. Mrs. Raynor considerately withdrew and left the two together, warning them that she should be back in ten minutes to prevent her patient from becoming unduly excited.
Rex had changed. There was no longer any plumpness in his cheeks, and his face was very white. But so were his teeth, and his eyes were as lustrous as ever.
"Roy!" He uttered the one word in a weak voice, and held tightly in both of his the hands that his brother extended to him.
A moment of the precious ten was lost to silence as the two looked at each other, but in that look was that which hours of speech could not have expressed. Roy read in it true repentance, a pleading for forgiveness, and Rex saw that there was no chiding for him from those at home, only love and pity.
"Do you know all, Roy; the very worst?" Rex then whispered.
"Don't think of that now, Reggie. It is all right. I want to talk about yourself— your sickness."
"But I must think of it. I have been thinking of it ever since I came to my senses yesterday. Did you know that I told you lies, that I acted them, that I took the money I had been saving up for mother's present to pay the expenses of this wretched trip?"
"But you didn't go all the way, Reggie. I found that out. You turned back. What happened to you then?"
Rex told the terrible tale of the robbery, of the awful night he had passed riding back and forth across the river, and had got as far as his falling asleep on the train when Mrs. Raynor appeared and smilingly announced that time was up.
"Miles will tell you the rest, Roy," said Rex. "He's the best fellow. I don't know what would have become of me if it hadn't been for him. And Mrs. Raynor, too. When I get well they must all come to Philadelphia and we'll give them the very best time."
There was a touch of his old self in the heartiness with which he uttered these words. Roy's coming and comforting words had lifted a heavy burden from his heart.
They left him to try to get to sleep again. Roy went down stairs with Mrs. Raynor.
"I ought to go home at once and tell my mother about Rex," he said.
"Why not send a message and stay with him?" suggested the other. "We should be very glad to have you. There is plenty of room in the house. Or send word for your mother to come on. I know she must be anxious to see her son."
Roy hesitated. He scarcely knew what to do. Then he remembered Sydney's absence and reflected that the girls could not very well be left alone. He decided to stay himself till Monday, and to send word that Rex was all right now.
He hurried off to the station to write his dispatch and came back as quickly to the Raynors'. He recollected that he had not yet seen the Miles of whom Rex spoke, the fellow who could tell him the continuation of his brother's adventures.
He asked Florence, whom he found on the lawn, where he could find Miles.
"He's out in the field now," she replied, "digging potatoes. But it's almost twelve. He'll be in then for his dinner. He just adores that brother of yours."
"But who is he?" Roy persisted.
"Well, he hasn't told us his story yet. We took him on trust, and he's turned out all right so far. But there he comes now."
"Excuse me," said Roy. "I'll go and see him." And he hurried off around the corner of the house.
The next minute he stood face to face with the youth who is destined to play a highly important part in the remainder of this tale.
MILES HARDING'S STORY
Miles knew Roy at once.
"This is Miles, isn't it?" said Roy in his pleasant way, and he put out his hand.
"Yes, but wait a minute."
Miles hurried to the pump near the kitchen door. He gave his hands a douse of water, dried them quickly on a roller towel in the woodshed, and then came back to greet the brother of the boy of whom he was so fond.
"You got the telegram all right then?" he said. "Rex was so weak when he told me where to send it, I wasn't sure I'd get it quite right."
"I want to thank you for all you did for him," went on Roy. "He's told me about it, except the details. He said you'd do that— about what happened to him after he got out of the train. But don't let me keep you from your dinner."
"I'd rather talk to you than eat," said Miles frankly.
Mrs. Raynor appeared at this moment and compromised matters by bringing Miles' dinner to him out on the side porch. Roy sat by and listened to the recital, most modestly given, of the facts with which the reader is already acquainted.
It was time for Miles to return to his work when it was finished, and Florence came to summon Roy to their own dinner.
"Isn't he queer?" she said, referring to Miles. "He seems so quiet and talks so well for a man who was— well, a tramp. I don't know what else you could call him. You ought to have seen the clothes he had on when he first came. Mamma made him burn them."
"He looks as if he might have an interesting story to tell," commented Roy.
"We'll get him to tell it to-night if your brother is well enough," said Mrs. Raynor. "He promised that we should hear it as soon as Rex was able to listen too."
Roy took Rex's dinner up to him, and the twins had an hour to themselves, during which Rex went more into detail concerning his experiences with Harrington and his crowd. They compared notes on Harry Atkins, and then fell to talking of Miles Harding.
"He's something more than a common tramp," Rex insisted. "He can read a little and write some. Isn't it funny how much he thinks of me, when I haven't done a thing for him? Mrs. Raynor lets him come up and sit with me every evening when his work is done. Of course I didn't know this till yesterday, when I came to my senses."
After the doctor's visit about three, Rex went to sleep and Roy played a game of tennis with Florence.
"I don't want to seem glad that your brother is sick," she said, "but it's awfully nice to have company. I get so lonely when Bert is away."
That evening they all assembled in Rex's room— Mrs. Raynor was a widow, so the family at home consisted only of herself and Florence— and Miles, seated at the foot of the bed, told the story of his life.
"I don't know where I was born," he began. "The first thing I can remember is living in a tenement house in New York, where I had to sleep three in a bed with the two Morrisey boys. Mr. Morrisey was a truckman, and there was five children of them, and I made six. I always thought I was a Morrisey, too, till one day Jimmy, he got mad at me, and told me I needn't talk so big because I was only living on charity.
"I went to his mother and asked her about it, and she told me that it was true, that I wasn't really her child, but that she thought as much of me as if I was, and that there wasn't any charity about it. But I wanted to know all about myself, and at last she said that I'd been given to Mr. Morrisey when I was a wee baby by a friend of his who couldn't afford to keep me and who made him vow that he'd never tell where I came from.
"Jimmy only found it out by accident one night, listening to his father and mother talking when they thought he was asleep. She said I wasn't to feel bad about it; because they thought everything of me.
"But I did feel bad about it. It seemed too hard when the Morriseys had all they could do to get along they should have one more mouth— and that not a Morrisey one— to feed.
"I studied as hard as I could at school, so as to try and get through sooner and go to work and begin to pay them back, but when I was twelve Mr. Morrisey was kicked to death by a horse and the next year Mrs. Morrisey married a man who took her and the children out to Dakota to live.
"She wanted me to go along, but I knew Mr. Rollings didn't like me, and besides I wanted to stay East where there was some chance of my finding out who my parents were. I got a place as cash boy in a Japanese store and boarded with some people who lived across the hall from where the Morriseys had their rooms.
"But Mr. Benton used to get drunk and when he was that way he'd beat me, just for the fun of it, it seemed to me. Then when they cut down the number of boys employed in the store and I couldn't find another place right away, he growled so about my not paying my board that I did my things up in a bundle one night and hid myself on a canal boat down at the East River docks.
"The captain was awful mad when he found me after we had got clear up the North River. He gave me a good thrashing and then said he was going to drop me overboard. But he didn't and I stayed on board all that season, driving mules and being sworn at and kicked and trounced like any other boy on the canal. I sometimes wonder why I didn't wear out.
"When navigation closed I was set adrift, and had a hard scrub of it to get along for a time. I almost starved for a while in Albany, trying to pick up odd jobs. Then I came near freezing to death.
"Finally I got a place as errand boy in a grocery store and kept that till some money was missing and they said I took it. I never stole in my life. Mrs. Morrisey brought me up too well for me to do that. But I couldn't prove I didn't and I had to go. The man said I ought to consider myself lucky I wasn't sent to jail.
"After that I had a worse time of it than ever. Whenever I applied for a position they wanted to know why I had left my last place. And when I told them, they wouldn't have anything to do with me.
"Then came the days when sometimes I thought I might as well steal, I was suffering because I was accused of doing it. When I was very hungry and saw chances of sneaking apples out of grocery-men's barrels, it seemed as if I had almost a right to do it. But I never did.
"Something always turned up to keep me from starving. Once a woman stopped me in the street and gave me a dollar. She said I looked so hungry she couldn't go by me without doing it.
"Another time I was taken sick in one of the parks, something like Rex. I fell down in a kind of faint, and when I came to I was in a hospital and I stayed there quite a little while.
"After I got out it was spring and I thought I'd try the country. I didn't beg; only asked for work. Sometimes I got it; many more times I didn't.
"Now and then if they didn't give me work they'd offer me milk or a cup of coffee, so I managed to pull through somehow.
"At last I got back to New York. I'd been wanting to get there again ever since the thought came to me one day that perhaps some friends of Mr. Morrisey's might know something about the man who had given me to him when I was a baby.
"With a good deal of trouble I found one of them. He was a bricklayer, and he told me as near as he could remember the man who gave me to Tim Morrisey was from Philadelphia, and that's all he knew.
"Then I wanted to go to Philadelphia.
"'But what good will that do you, Miles?' Mr. Beesley asked. 'You can't find out any more there, nor as much, as you can here.'
"'No,' I told him, 'but if I'm there maybe somebody else'll find out something from passing me in the street.'
"'That's an idea, sure enough,' he said, so I started for Philadelphia, and that's how I came to fall in with Rex."
Miles finished his story with this word. It almost seemed as if he had done it on purpose, planning for it, as it were. He always spoke the name with a little pause before it, as if it were something sacred.
Rex had told him to call him by it the day before when he had started in to address him as "Mr. Pell." All of Reginald's striving after premature manhood had been left in that past which preceded his experiences in the hotel at New York.
IN WINTER DAYS
Miles's story had been listened to with the closest attention by all the little party.
"It's just like a chapter out of a book," Florence whispered to Roy. "I wonder if he'll ever find out who he really is?"
"But how did you come by the name Harding?" Roy inquired. "Weren't you Miles Morrisey once?"
"Yes, but when they went away, and I got to having such hard knocks from the world, I didn't want to drag the name down with me, and so I thought Harding would suit me pretty well, and took it."
Rex seemed inclined to grow excited over the theme, so Mrs. Raynor proposed an immediate adjournment.
"To-morrow is Sunday," she said, "and Miles can have a long day with you."
In the course of this long day, the wanderer told Roy why he had been so drawn to Rex.
"I'd seen lots of nice looking fellows like him," he said, "but they always looked down on me and kind of kept off, as if they didn't want me to touch them with my dirty clothes. But I had to touch Rex when he fell over, and he didn't seem to mind it."
Rex flushed when Roy told him this.
"I'm afraid I didn't seem to mind because I was too far gone to mind anything," he said. "But I do like Miles and would like to do all I can for him."
Roy returned home Monday morning, and Mrs. Pell went out to Rex that night. He improved rapidly, and within a fortnight was able to be moved to Philadelphia.
It was pitiable to see the effect of the parting on Miles. The Raynors had found him very capable and were anxious to keep him. There was no reason why he should not stay, except his desire to be where Rex was, and his quixotic notion that he might meet his father or mother should he go to Philadelphia.
"Keep a look out for me, Rex," he said, "and if you hear of any position you think I could fill, let me know."
Rex promised, and after he got home told his mother that when she could make up her mind to completely forgive him for all he had done, he wished that she would think of something they could do for Miles.
"I have forgiven you already, Reggie," was the reply. "I know that you have suffered enough not to need any other lesson. Now, why not make Miles a present of a complete outfit? Wouldn't he take it all right? Then when he is properly fitted out you can invite him on here for Thanksgiving day."
Rex talked over the idea with Roy and then they wrote to Mrs. Raynor about it. The end of the matter was that they procured Miles's measure, and sent him the things as a present from Rex.
The invitation for Thanksgiving was in the letter that accompanied them.
The young fellow's gratitude was beyond the power of expression, and over and over again he asked Mrs. Raynor if she thought it was right for him to accept the invitation.
"Of course it is right," she told him. "They would not have asked you if they had not wanted you."
His happiness seemed to shine out of every feature of his face when he boarded the Philadelphia train Wednesday afternoon. Rex met him at the station, and was surprised to see what a good looking fellow he made when he was properly rigged out.
"Maybe I'll make some awful blunders," Miles confided to him on the way to the house. "Remember I've never been with swell folks before."
"We're not swell," Rex laughed.
He had half a mind to let him know then and there where they got their money, but decided that he wouldn't. That night he took his guest to the theater, and the next day Sydney had a long talk with him.
His manners were much easier among the unaccustomed surroundings than Rex had dared to hope they would be. Mrs. Pell was very much attracted by him, and both girls declared he was "so interesting."
In his talk with him Sydney sought to draw out all the facts he could about the Morriseys.
"That boy you had the fight with, Miles," he said— "Jimmy, I think you told Rex his name was— did you never ask him any questions about what he overheard that night?"
"No. Mr. Morrisey seemed not to want me to talk about it, and besides, I never would have asked Jimmy after what had happened."
"But you'd ask him now, wouldn't you?" went on Sydney. "You say that you heard his mother was dead. He seems to be the only person left from whom you can get a clew."
"Yes, I'd ask him now if I had the chance," Miles admitted "But I don't know just where he is. You see, I've lost track of the Morriseys lately."
"But you could find it again couldn't you? Write to the place where you heard they were last. Where was that?"
"Very good. Do that, and when you have found out all you can from Jimmy, let me know."
Miles promised to attend to this, but since he had fallen in with Rex, his desire to hunt up his parents seemed not as strong as it had been. He went back to the Raynors enthusiastic over his visit, and talked of it for weeks afterward.
Meanwhile Roy and Rex settled down to their school life. The change made in Rex by his New York experience was quite noticeable. While retaining all his dignity of manner, he was more thoughtful of the feelings of others than he had been.
He worried a good deal at first about the opinion Scott Bowman must have of him, and truth to tell Scott did feel a little sore over the way he had been treated.
The two boys did not write or see each other till they met accidentally in the street at Christmas time.
Rex saw Scott coming and grew red in spite of himself. There was a chance, he felt, that the other might go by without speaking to him. But Scott halted and put out his hand.
"Hello, Rex," he said, "you are a stranger."
And at these words a great burden was lifted from Reginald's mind.
The truth of the matter was, it was very difficult to keep at odds with a fellow with the fascinating personality of Rex Pell, and now since the recent change in him he was more attractive than ever. He took Scott home to lunch with him, and related in detail his adventures on his memorable trip.
"Where the fun in being 'tough' comes in," he concluded, "I don't see."
At Christmas time Mrs. Pell had Mrs. Raynor and Florence in for a visit.
"Has Miles heard from Jimmy Morrisey yet?" Rex inquired.
"No," Florence replied. "He didn't write till about three weeks ago."
"You'll let him come in and see us New Year's, won't you?" Rex went on.
"Yes indeed, if you would like to have him."
Miles came for New Year's and brought the information that he had heard from Jimmy Morrisey at last. He was a hall boy in a New York hotel, and said that as near as he could remember the name he had heard his father mention that night in his talk with his mother was Darley.
Rex wrote the name down on a piece of paper and put it away to show to Sydney on his return from his Florida trip, for his health had been growing steadily poorer and Mrs. Pell had persuaded him finally to go South with a friend for a while.
"You know he isn't really my own brother," Rex confided to Miles. "But he's a distant relative. His father and mother died when he was very little."
Miles was much interested on hearing this. It served in some way to establish another bond between himself and the Pells.
"I'll let you know what Syd finds out about this as soon as he finds out anything," Rex told Miles at parting.
Miles had begun to attend school. He had not had an opportunity to study since leaving the Morriseys. He was naturally quick, and made good progress.
"He'll know too much by spring to be put to garden work again," Mrs. Raynor had said when she was in. "I hardly know what to do with him then."
"Oh, don't worry about that," laughed Jess. "By that time he may have found his parents and be a millionaire."
"How you talk, Jess," interposed her sister. "If he ever does find his people, it doesn't follow that they will be wealthy. Indeed, he'd probably never have been given to the Morriseys if his father hadn't been too poor to support him."
Eva took a deep interest in the case. She was of a literary turn of mind, and wove many a romance in her busy brain about the early history of this strange youth, who seemed so extraordinarily gentle, considering his rough bringing up.
Sydney came home just before the twins' vacation ended.
"Oh, Syd!" Rex suddenly exclaimed, that first evening as they were all seated in the library, listening to Florida experiences. "Miles has heard from this Morrisey boy."
"Well," replied Sydney, "did he learn anything of importance?"
"Yes, he found out the name his father and mother used when they were talking about the man who brought Miles to them."
"And what was it?"
Sydney fell back in his chair and grew as white as a ghost.
SYDNEY GOES ON A MYSTERIOUS EXPEDITION
The family were greatly alarmed at Sydney's collapse. Mrs. Pell had fondly hoped that his Southern trip would be of permanent benefit to him, and here he was breaking down on the first night of his return.
Not one of them associated his seizure in any way with the subject on which they had been talking except Rex. He could not but recall a somewhat similar attack, when Sydney had fainted in his office while he (Rex) was telling Scott Bowman of their inheritance.
But Miles Harding's affairs had nothing to do with this. What did it all mean? Rex asked himself, as he sped off for the doctor.
When he got back, Sydney had come to, but seemed to be suffering severely. And yet when asked if he was in pain, he would shake his head and beg so imploringly that they would leave him to himself, that the fears of the family were intensified many fold.
The doctor was utterly nonplused. He prescribed a quieting potion, and went away, promising to return again in the morning.
"And perhaps you had better humor him in his desire to be left alone," he said to Mrs. Pell. "But of course arrange to be near in case another collapse occurs."
The household separated for bed that night with sober faces.
"Syd hasn't been like himself since Mr. Tyler died," remarked Roy, lingering at the door of Rex's room.
Rex did not reply immediately. He stood looking at his brother intently for an instant, then he put a hand on Roy's shoulder, gently pulled him into the room and closed the door behind him.
"Sit down a minute, Roy," he said gravely; "I want to tell you something."
"What is it? What makes you look so solemn, Reggie? Is it anything about Syd?"
"Yes, it's about Syd. Something that happened last summer, and which he told me not to tell; but it seems to me that I ought to tell now."
In a few words then, Rex related what he and Scott Bowman had witnessed, adding an account of what Sydney had said to him when he asked to have the doctor sent out of the room.
"It's queer, isn't it, Roy?" Rex added.
"Yes, but I can't connect it with the present case."
"Neither can I. That makes it queerer still. Perhaps you'd better not say anything about what I told you."
"No, I shan't," and the boys sat quiet a while longer, discussing the mystery of this affair in lowered tones.
Meanwhile Sydney in his room across the hall, was lying in his bed with his eyes wide open staring at the ceiling. Now and then he passed his hand across his forehead, on which the perspiration kept gathering.
"It is Nemesis," he murmured over and over. "I have felt that it would come, and now at last it has appeared, and through Rex, of all the others!"
All through that night he remained thus wakeful. He watched, helplessly, the gradual breaking of the dawn, knowing that he had not slept a moment and feeling that he must have this physical ill to bear in addition to the mental one which already weighed him down to the earth.
But he had come to the turning point now. In some way this was a relief, even though the prospect immediately ahead of him was such a fearsome one.
He wished that he could go up to the office without seeing any of the family, as he had done that other morning in Marley.
But he could not do this now. They would worry and send after him. He must try and get through the ordeal of facing them as best he could.
He rose at the usual time, but before he had finished dressing there was a knock at the door and Roy's voice wanting to know how he was.
"All right," he replied, and then, as his brother asked if he might come in, he opened the door.
"All right!" exclaimed Roy, after one look at his face, "Oh, Syd!"
"It's only because I haven't slept," Sydney hastened to assure him.
"Then what are you getting up for?" Roy went on.
"I must go down town. I have that to do which will ease my mind, and make me all right again, I trust."
The last words were added in so low a tone as to be scarcely audible.
"Oh, Syd, what is it? What is worrying you? Can't I help you in any way?"
"No, Roy, you cannot now. Perhaps— later— I will need— need your pity."
"Pity! Oh, Syd, you do not know what you say."
"Don't, Roy. I have a hard task to perform; do not, I beg of you, make it harder."
Roy said no more; he would not after this. He went back to his own room and went over in his mind all that had befallen them since they had been what the world called wealthy.
"Not one bit happier, though; no, not as happy," he added for himself.
At the breakfast table Sydney insisted that he felt plenty well enough to go to the office.
"Can't you see, mother," he said at last, "that it is a matter of the mind and not of the body. Let me have the opportunity of easing that, and— you will see the result."
But when he left the house he did not go at once to his office. He stopped at the first drug store he passed, and walked up to the little stand on which the city directory was kept.
He turned the pages to D, and then looked up Darley.
There were several of the name, and a frown contracted his brow. But he took out his pencil and memorandum book, and made a note of the various addresses. Then he went on, but soon turned into a street that would not take him to the office. He boarded a car and rode off in the direction of South street. In the course of twenty minutes he was waiting for his ring to be answered at the door of a very modest little house near the Baltimore tracks.
But after he had been admitted, he did not remain long inside.
"I must try another," he muttered, consulting his memorandum.
He tried several others, but with equal ill success. The quest seemed hopeless.
"There may be nothing in it after all," he murmured. "But that does not lighten my load here;" and he pressed his hand over his heart.
All that day he kept up his hunt, scarcely stopping to get a little lunch at noon. Toward nightfall he called at an address on Seventh Street next to the last on his list.
It was an odd looking house— apparently a store, for there was a regular shop window, but there was nothing in it but curtains that screened off the interior, and no sign, and the door when he tried it, was locked. But there was a bell handle close beside it, and this he pulled.
The door was opened after quite an interval, to a mere crack, and the voice of an aged woman wanted to know who was there.
"A gentleman to see Mr. David Darley," Sydney answered.
"You can't see him," came back the reply, "He's been dead these five months."
"Well, then," went on Sydney, pushing against the door to prevent any possibility of its being shut in his face, "I want to see some of his relations— his wife, or daughter, or somebody."
"There ain't any of them either," was the reply. "There's only me."
"Well, then, I'd like to see you," Sydney rejoined, feeling that this, too, was to be a wild goose chase, but determined, nevertheless, to leave no stone unturned.
"What do you want to see me about?" went on the old lady. "I don't know you."
"I just want to ask you some questions about Mr. Darley. Are you any relation of his?"
"I'm his mother-in-law," and the door was slowly opened, but only wide enough to admit Sydney, when it was closed behind him with great rapidity.
He looked with some curiosity at the person who admitted him. She was very small, not much above his waist in height, and quite old, with snow white hair and a very peaceful expression of face that contrasted markedly with her evident fear of strangers.
She did not ask Sydney to be seated, and remained standing herself, taking up her station in the doorway that led into the room beyond, as if seeking to bar out any intrusion there.
The apartment in which Sydney found himself was a very pleasant one, well lighted from the large window, whose upper portion was undraped. There were some pictures on the walls, a piano stood at one side, and a guitar could be seen off in one corner.
But Sydney was not in the mood to take many notes of his surroundings. He proceeded at once with the business in hand.
"Was Mr. David Darley any relation to Maurice Darley?" he inquired.
"Will it hurt David if I answer?" replied the old lady cautiously.
"How can it, since you say he is dead?" Sydney responded with the flicker of a smile.
"Well, then," answered the other, heaving a little sigh, "I don't see as it can do any harm for me to say that David was his brother."
"At last," burst forth Sydney with something between a shout and a groan. He put his hand against the wall as if to steady himself.
THE STRANGE CONDUCT OF MRS. FOX
All the suspicions of the little white haired old lady seemed to be revived by Sydney's manner of receiving the intelligence she gave him.
"Maybe I've made a mistake about it," she said, pinching nervously at the edges of a white apron she wore. "It may be another man of the same name."
"Is this Maurice Darley dead?" asked Sydney, paying no attention to her disturbed equanimity.
"I don't know. Maybe he is," was the reply.
"When did you see him last?" went on Sydney.
"How do you know I ever saw him?" asked the old lady quickly.
Sydney began to lose his patience.
"You seem to think I mean you some harm," he said. "You are quite wrong there. It is a matter of money, of a fortune that belongs to Mr. Maurice Parley, if I can find him."
The old lady looked at him keenly.
"That's what caused all his trouble," she said slowly. "Fortunes. He was always thinking of them."
"Can't you tell me where he is now?" Sydney went on in a coaxing tone. "You appear to know a good deal about him."
"Oh, Mr.— I? Do I show it?" A terrified look came into the old lady's eyes. Her fingers clutched tightly at each side of the doorway over which she had mounted guard.
Sydney was by this time convinced that there was some mystery about Maurice Darley, which the woman before him was seeking to conceal.
"What if he is dead?"
The old lady brought this out with a sort of triumphant tone.
"But he isn't dead," Sydney returned, with almost the same manner. "If he was you would have said so long ago. You see I can understand some things. But why are you so secret about him? Tell me, did you ever hear him speak of a Mr. Tyler?"
"Hush, hush!" The old lady put her fingers over her lips and advanced to Sydney as if to thrust him out of the door. "Not now. Not here," she added in an imploring tone.
Sydney was compelled to back out of the door into the street, but he held it open partially to say:
"I must find out about Maurice Darley. It is for his good, not mine. Where can I see you about him? Will you come to my office on Chestnut Street?"
"No, no. I can't go away," the old lady replied.
She was glancing backward over her shoulder every instant or two.
"Will you give me your name, then, so I can write to you?" Sydney went on. "Or if I write to Mr. Darley here will you give it to him?"
"No, only write to me, Mrs. Hannah Fox," and with that the door was closed in his face.
Sydney lingered in front of it a second. He had a blind impulse to ring the bell and compel her to open it again. But he knew that it would be useless, so he turned his steps slowly toward Chestnut street and went to his office.
He found that his absence all day had been productive of not a little harm.
"But this is a part of the expiation," he murmured to himself.
He put aside the letters waiting to be answered, and set himself to the task of composing the one to Mrs. Fox. It took him a long while to write it. He tore up several completed ones.
The usual hour for closing the office arrived. The boy hovered about his desk, seeming to hope that his presence would remind his employer that it was time to go home.
Sydney looked up at last.
"You may go, John," he said. "I will mail this."
But when the boy had gone he read over what he had written, then tore it into very small pieces and dropped them in the waste paper basket. Then he took a fresh sheet and began again.
He was half way down the first page when the door opened and Rex came in.
"Syd," he exclaimed, "aren't you coming home to dinner? We waited till seven o'clock, then mother grew so worried that I came down to see if anything had happened."
"How good you are to me, Reggie," said the other. "And how little I deserve it."
His head went down on his two arms upon the desk. His frame shook as if with sobbing.
"Syd, you dear old fellow, don't talk that way. What is troubling you?" Rex had put his arm about his brother's neck; his forehead pressed close against the bowed head.
"Don't, Reggie. If you only knew you would not want to touch me."
Sydney lifted his head suddenly, but his arms were still crossed over the half written letter.
"Syd, what do you mean?"
Rex looked at his brother in deep perplexity, his handsome brow wrinkled with the anxiety Sydney's appearance and demeanor were causing him.
"You will know soon enough, Reggie, and then promise me that you will try to think of me as friendly as you can; not give away utterly to your contempt. It was partly for y—. No, I will not say that. No, go home, Rex. Tell mother I am all right, and will be back some time to-night, and not to worry."
"But you ought not to stay here and work, Syd," Rex persisted. "You are not fit to do it."
"I must do what I've set out to do." Sydney's voice was almost stern as he made this reply.
Rex saw that it was useless to linger, and went sadly home. Something dreadful had evidently come over Sydney. What it was he did not pretend to know. But he made up his mind not to tell the family all that Sydney had said.
It was nearly nine that night before the young lawyer finished the letter to Mrs. Fox to suit him. He dropped it in the corner letter box on his way home, and then stepped in at a restaurant to at least go through the form of eating something.
"When shall I tell them at home about it?" was his one thought, and the ever recurring echo to it was, "Not yet! not yet!"
Almost his greatest trial of the day was forcing himself to remain in the library a half hour after he reached the house, and trying to appear himself. He was conscious that Rex was watching him closely.
But it was natural for him to plead fatigue after a hard day's work. He locked himself in his room after he reached it. With hands tightly pressed against his forehead, he sank into a chair.
"I foresaw all this," he muttered. "I knew that I must always suffer. That what I did was done for others is no excuse; and now they must suffer, too."
He slept this night from sheer exhaustion, but the sleep was much disturbed by dreams, in all of which a white haired old lady with the face of a fox seemed to be trying to do him some bodily injury.
The next day he seemed to exist for nothing but the arrival of the mails. But night came, and no response to his letter to Mrs. Fox.
The following morning he tried to get up, but his head was so dizzy that he was forced to drop back on the pillow again. Fortunately he had not locked his door this time, so that when they came to inquire about him, they were able to get in.
It was Roy who came first.
"My mail from the office," was all Sydney had strength to say when he saw him.
"Yes, I will bring it for you," replied Roy, and he decided to give up school for the day.
The doctor was summoned again, and prescribed perfect quiet, but after he had gone, Sydney asked so persistently if Roy had come with his letters, that when he did arrive, Mrs. Pell thought that the quickest way to quiet the patient was to let him come in with them.
"I only want to see one of them," Sydney whispered quickly, as Rex took a seat by the bedside, some dozen letters in his lap.
"Which one, Syd?" asked Roy, gently.
"It is from an old lady— a Mrs. Fox. It will probably be in a plain envelope."
"Perhaps this is it, then. Shall I open it and see?"
"No, no. Give it to me," replied Sydney quickly.
He took the envelope and the knife Roy handed to him, but his fingers trembled so that he could do nothing.
"I shall have to let you open it after all, Roy," he said, and handed them both back.
Roy slit the end of the envelope in a second, and once more put it into his brother's hands. With dilated eyes and breath coming in brief gasps, Sydney drew out the inclosure.
He unfolded it and looked eagerly at the signature.
"I can't see quite clearly, Rex," he said after an instant. "Is that Fox signed to this?"
"Yes. Hannah M. Fox."
"Thank you." Sydney turned to the front page and began to read. Suddenly he gave a little cry.
"I can't see the words, Roy," he said. "Something is the matter with my sight. You will have to read it to me. Never mind if some of the things it says sound strange to you. I will explain them by and by. Here."
Roy took the letter, and read as follows:
Mr. Sydney F. Pell.
Dear Sir:— Come tomorrow night at midnight. Don't ring. Knock lightly on the door. Yours truly,
Hannah M. Fox.
"And that is to-night," murmured Sydney. "How can I go?"
A MIDNIGHT VISIT
"Do you want me to write a note for you saying you can't come?" said Roy.
"No, no. I must go," replied Sydney.
"But you can't," Roy was about to answer. Then he checked himself, and said instead: "Well, perhaps you will be well enough to go to-night. Is it far?" for there was no address given in the letter.
"No, not very. It is right in the city here. But you can't write for me. The old lady mustn't know that you've seen her letter. She'd notice the difference in the handwriting. But midnight! What a queer time to appoint. It's just like her, though. Now I will try and get some sleep so as to help prepare myself for to-night."
The receipt of the letter appeared to have eased Sydney's mind somewhat, for he slept until well on in the afternoon, and then he woke feeling somewhat better.
"I can go to-night, Roy, after all," he said to his brother cheerfully.
But Roy did not see how he could go. Still he thought it was best not to say anything till the time came.
Just before night, Sydney called Roy to the bedside.
"Order a coup for me to be here at half past eleven to-night," he said.
"But you are not fit to go, Syd," the other could not help but respond.
"I will be when the time comes," was the reply. "You will see. Say nothing to the others about it."
"Then let me go with you," suggested Roy.
"Well, perhaps you may, but you will sit in the carriage. Now go out and order it, please."
Roy felt somewhat burdened with a secret to keep from the family. But he trusted Sydney fully, so he felt that it was all right The patient grew a little better in the evening.
At half past eight he called Roy to him and whispered: "You had better lie down and get some rest now. Take my alarm clock and put it at quarter past eleven."
But Roy knew it was no use to take the clock. He was sure he could not sleep. He was far too anxious and excited for that. He lay down on the sofa in his own room and tried to read. But he did not see a word on the page. He was thinking of Sydney.
Presently Rex came in. He flung himself down on the bed, exclaiming: "Roy, I feel exactly as if something was going to happen. I can't get to sleep, so there's no use in my going to bed. I'm worried about Syd. There is something mighty queer about him."
"Oh, he's much better to-night," Roy responded encouragingly.
"Yes, I know; but it's his actions all through this thing that I'm worried about. Do you know that I sometimes think, Roy—" here Rex sat up on the bed and lowered his voice impressively—"I sometimes think that perhaps there was a touch of insanity in Syd's family. You know we are always forgetting that he isn't one of us."
"Is it anything in particular makes you think that, Reggie?" said Roy, wondering what Rex would say if he knew about that night's expedition.
"Well, yes, one thing taken with a lot of other things," and he proceeded to tell of what Sydney had said to him at the office when he went down there the previous night.
"He seems to have the idea that he has committed some crime," Rex went on. "I really think that we ought to watch him carefully."
"It doesn't seem to me to be as serious as that," responded Roy. "But as you say, we ought to watch him carefully."
Rex lay quiet for a time. Roy's thoughts were disturbing ones. Reginald, too, was worrying over Sydney's condition. But that note from Hannah Fox was something tangible. There was no chimera of the imagination about that.
Perhaps it was a real anxiety that was preying on Syd's mind. Very likely something connected with his parentage.
Roy had not thought of this before. He was about to suggest it to relieve his brother's mind when he looked up and saw that Rex was asleep.
Then he glanced at the clock on the bureau and saw that it pointed to five minutes to eleven.
"I'll let him sleep on now," he decided, "or he'll be sure to be around when we go, and I'm sure Syd doesn't want him to know."
Roy went across the hall to his elder brother's room.
He found him sitting on the side of the bed, looking very pale.
"I guess you'll have to help me dress, Roy," he said with a sorry sort of smile.
"Perhaps you'd better send a telegram," Roy rejoined. "There won't be any handwriting to recognize on that."
"No, no, I must go myself. You will understand some day, very soon, why I feel this way, and then, Roy, you may pity me and forgive me if you can."
Roy thought of his brother's theory. Sydney's talk was very strange, but not stranger than this midnight proceeding. Well, he would wait until he had seen this last through before deciding whether or not he ought to report to his mother.
He helped Sydney on with his clothes, then went to the window to see if the carriage was there. He saw it standing in the glare of a street lamp. It was just half past eleven. He started to his own room to get his coat.
"Be careful to make no noise, Roy," Sydney cautioned him.
But when Roy entered his own apartment, there was Rex sitting up on the bed, rubbing his eyes.
Roy hoped he would go at once to his room, but he began to talk about the strangeness of his having fallen asleep in that way, and then when he saw what time it was, wanted to know why Roy hadn't gone to bed.
"How could I when you were in the way?" Roy answered smilingly, and just then Sydney called to him softly from down the hall, "Roy, aren't you coming?"
There was no help for it. Roy went to the closet and took down his overcoat.
"Why, where are you going this time of night, Roy Pell?" demanded Rex.
"Just out for a little while; good night, old fellow. You'd better go straight to bed."
"But look here, Roy." Rex was following him out into the hall. "This is mighty queer, your going off this way. Does mother know about it?"
Rex ceased abruptly. He had come face to face with Sydney, all dressed for the street.
"Reggie, what are you doing up?" Sydney asked, and to Rex his voice sounded cold and stern.
"I fell asleep on Roy's bed. But where are you two going? You're not fit to be out of bed, Syd," as the latter reeled and made a quick clutch at the bannisters.
"Rex, help me down stairs with him and don't make any noise." Roy spoke in an authoritative tone, and Rex meekly obeyed.
"Perhaps Rex had better come along, too. I ordered a coach, so that you could put your feet up. There'll be plenty of room."
Roy whispered this in Sydney's ear as they went slowly down the stairs.
"All right; just as you say. I suppose it won't make much difference how soon you all know now."
"Rex, you may come along if you like," said Roy, when they reached the lower hall, and Sydney was sitting on the settee. "Run up quickly and get your coat."
Rex eagerly seized the opportunity, and in five minutes they were all in the carriage, and the driver had started for Seventh Street.
Sydney was considerably exhausted by the effort he had already made. He lay back in the seat breathing heavily.
"Do you know where we are going and what for?" Rex leaned forward to whisper in Roy's ear.
"It's a mystery to me, too, but we want to watch out carefully that no harm comes to Syd," Roy whispered back.
When the carriage halted before the little dwelling where Mrs. Fox lived Roy started to get out, but Sydney drew him back.
"No, I must be alone," he said. "Have the carriage wait here till I come out."
But he had scarcely taken a step from the carriage when his weakness overpowered him. He tottered, and would have fallen had not Rex sprung out and caught him. Roy was at his other side in an instant, and together the two boys supported him.
"You will have to help me up to the door, I guess," he whispered faintly; "but don't ring; knock lightly."
There was no one passing at the moment, nor did any light shine from the interior of the place, Roy knocked against the glass in the door, and the latter was opened on the merest crack.
"Who's there?" came the demand in a quivering old woman's voice.
"Sydney Pell. I am ill, but I was bound to come. My two brothers are with me. Can't they help me in to a seat? They will then go away again."
"No, no; they can't come in," was the quick response. "There must be no noise. It's a risk to have you here."
"Then can you open the door wide enough to help me in?" returned Sydney.
The answer was the swinging back of the door and the reaching out of the old lady's arm.
"Go back to the carriage, boys, and wait," said Sydney, and the next instant he had disappeared within the mysterious dwelling.
SYDNEY FREES HIS MIND
"You're pretty weak, aren't you?" This was Mrs. Fox's remark as she eased Sydney down into a rocking chair in the little parlor. It was quite dark, save for the faint light that came in from the street lamp over the curtain pole in the window.
"I suppose I was too weak to venture to come," Sydney answered, "but I felt that I must. Did you understand all that I meant to say in my note?"
"I understand that you know of a great sum of money that is coming to Maurice Darley. It's strange, very strange."
"Why is it? Did you know anything about it? Did you expect it?"
There was a note of alarm in Sydney's tones.
"No, not that in particular. But you must tell me all the details before I dare to tell any more."
The old lady seated herself on a low chair close to Sydney's side. It was extremely weird, this confidential talk in the darkness.
"What details do you want?" Sydney asked.
"Why, proofs that there is really something to this fortune. Maurice has talked too much about others that have nothing to them."
"You see him often, then," exclaimed Sydney eagerly. "He's here, perhaps."
"S'h!" commanded the old Lady in a stern whisper. "Yes, he is here. He is in the back room yonder. I am so afraid he will hear us. That is why I had you come at midnight, when he would be sound asleep."
"But why can I not see him?"
"Because he is weak— weak in his mind. He is all the while fancying that he is rich. A talk about money would excite him so that I fear the consequences."
"And you say he knew Mr. Tyler?" Sydney remembered and spoke this name very softly.
"Yes, he talks of him continually now."
"Was he in his office once?"
"Yes, I believe so."
"One more question. Has this Mr. Darley any children?"
"He had one once— a boy. But it must have died when a baby, soon after Mrs. Darley did. And now do you know why I do not want you to come here with stories of riches for Maurice Darley? He's daft on the subject already. I do not want him to go so far that they will take him away from me."
"You are fond of him, then?" asked Sydney.
"He is all I have. If he goes I must live alone. It is my delight to care for him. The little money David left me is enough for my simple wants, Maurice lives like a lord in his fancies. Why do you want to come and disturb us in our content?"
"Because I must," Sydney broke out, as passionately as he could in restrained tones. "Don't you understand that the money which belongs to Maurice Darley I have been diverting to other uses? It was left to him by Mr. Tyler, but I tore up the will. He made it about three hours after another one, in which he had left everything to the woman who had acted as a mother to me for twenty years.
"He was a vacillating old man. I felt that he might change his mind back again if he should live three hours longer, so when he was dead I tore up the last will. I alone knew what it contained, and I have been a miserable man ever since."
Sydney bowed his head on his hands, and there was silence in the little room for a moment or two.
"You— you are a criminal, then?" said the old lady presently.
Sydney winced at the term, but at the same time he felt a sense of relief, as one does after taking a plunge into cold water. At any rate the shock of the first contact was over.
"Yes, I suppose I am," he answered. "And I am ready to suffer the penalty. The only excuse I have to offer is the fact that what I did, I did not for myself, but for those I love, who have done so much for me. And now it is not joy, but misery, I shall bring them."
"You are repentant, though," murmured the old lady softly. "It is not as if you were hardened and only gave up when some one else found it out and forced you to. There is hope for you in that. But how much money is there?"
"Nearly half a million. But some of it has been used, put into a house, which of course will be given up to Mr. Darley."
"Then you will take him away from me?" It was almost a wail with which the old lady said this.
"No, you can come with him, of course."
"No. It will be his taking care of me then, and that will be so different. Oh, why did you come to disturb us?" She seemed quite forgetful for the time of the presence of any one else in the room, of her own caution to Sydney to speak quietly. Suddenly she appeared to recollect this latter necessity.
She ceased the half moaning she had begun and clutched Sydney's arm tightly.
"I suppose," she whispered, "that it would not be right to ask you to keep this money?"
"I can't keep it," Sydney replied. "I have suffered enough from it already."
"But how can you give it to a man who is not in his right mind? He thinks he is a wealthy man. I have given him a quantity of gilt paper to play with. He is like a child, you know. The possession of real money will not make him any happier."
"But there is the son," suggested Sydney.
"I told you he was dead."
"I am not so sure of that. I think I have seen him. Would he not be about seventeen now?"
"Yes, and you have seen him?"
It was with difficulty the old lady kept her tones within bounds.
"But you cannot be sure it is the same," she went on.
"No. I cannot be certain, but I am pretty sure."
"Perhaps he looks like his father. Wait, I think I can find a picture of him in the dark."
"But I cannot see it in the dark."
"By holding it close to the window you can get the ray from the lamp on it There! here it is, I think."
Mrs. Fox took the portrait to the front of the room, and parting the curtains a little, held it for Sydney to look at.
"Yes, it is very like," he said. "This picture must have been taken when Mr. Darley was quite young."
"He sat for it before he was married. But where is this boy?"
"Living at a little town out in New Jersey. He wants to find his father."
"How comes it he isn't dead?" the old lady wanted to know.
Sydney told the story of Miles Harding as he had heard it from Rex.
"Do you know why he was compelled to give up the child?" he added.
"Poverty, I suppose. You know he was very sick once, and he lost everything. That was what unsettled his reason. But to think he should have given out that the child was dead!"
"Did you ever hear him speak of the Morriseys?"
"No, I never heard the name before. But I should like to see this boy. Does he know that his father is living?"
"No, not yet; you see I did not hear of it until tonight. But I must not stay longer. My brothers are waiting for me in the carriage. We must arrange what we are going to do."
"I don't know what to say. The boy ought to have his rights. Can't we fix it all quietly some way? I don't think you meant to do wrong."
"Yes, I did. I did everything with my eyes open. I ought to suffer for it. The only trouble is that those I love will suffer with me. But don't you think the restoration of fortune will bring back Mr. Darley's mind?"
"I don't know. I can't tell about that. He is very queer."
"Do you have a doctor for him?"
"Oh, no. I'd be afraid they'd want to take him away. I expect I'm selfish about it. But bring the boy here. He is old enough. We can talk it over with him, and maybe his father will recognize him."
"I can come any time, then?" said Sydney.
"Yes, now I know who you are."
"Good night, then. I shall see you soon again. I feel better than when I came."
Sydney rose and walked to the door without assistance. As soon as the boys saw him they hurried out to help him into the carriage. Within three minutes they were driving towards home and a church clock near by chimed one— for half past twelve.
"Boys," began Sydney, "I have something to tell you. I was not glad before that I was not your own brother. I am glad of it now, because— I am a criminal."
There was a pause. No one spoke. There was no sound but the rattle of the wheels. It was too dark to see the expression on the faces of the twins. Rex was leaning partly forward, one hand gripping Roy's knee. He could think of nothing save the night Mr. Keeler had spent with them and the horror they had had of him before they found out that it was his brother whose picture was in that book.
THE CONFESSION TO THE BOYS
The carriage had gone two squares before the silence in it was broken. Then Roy spoke.
"What is it, Syd?" he said. "I am sure you are worrying yourself needlessly over something— are magnifying it from a molehill into a mountain."
"Needlessly? Oh, boys, would that I were! But as soon as I tell you, you will understand it all. And I shall tell you now— in a minute. But just give me your hand, each of you, that I may feel the warm pressure of your confidence before— before you know the worst of me."
Roy and Rex instantly put out their hands. Syd took one in each of his and held them tight for an instant. Then he dropped them quickly and began to speak rapidly.
"Do you remember, Roy, the night last July you went home in Dr. Martin's carriage and left me alone with Mr. Tyler? The will that left all his money to mother had been signed and witnessed; you know what it contained. I felt so rejoiced for you all, although I had no idea then that there was a chance of your so soon coming into possession.
"I sat talking to the old man for an hour or so, about his investments and the various savings banks in which his money was deposited. Finally he appeared to grow restless.
"'Have you got that will I made, Sydney?' he asked.
"I pointed it out to him where it lay on the table.
"'I can make another one, can't I?' he went on.
"'As many as you please,' I told him.
"'Then write out this one and I'll sign it,' he said, and he dictated a document that left every penny of his fortune, except the five thousand to Ann and a thousand he left to you, Roy, to Maurice Darley, if living, or his heirs if dead.
"'You and Ann can witness it,' he told me, and I called her in, and she wrote her name under mine.
"He named myself and Dr. Martin as executors just as before, and said that I could probably find Maurice Darley without much trouble. He turned over in bed then and I asked him where Darley was when he last heard from him, but he did not answer. I went over to the bed and looked at him, and found that he was dead.
"Then the temptation flashed into my mind.
"'What a shame,' I thought, 'that owing to the caprice of a foolish old man these people who have been so good to me should be deprived of the fortune which had just been left to them. This Darley is undoubtedly rich. He has behaved contemptibly to the man who did so much for him. Why should he get the money?'
"Then I recollected that you had gone into the kitchen, Roy, earlier in the evening, to get Ann to sign the first will, and then the doctor had told you that it was not necessary. I reasoned that she would undoubtedly suppose that the will she did sign was the only one that had been made, because I was sure she had not read it.
"All these things flashed into my mind within a few seconds of time as I stood by the bedside of the dead man. My determination was quickly taken. I knew that Ann had gone home, that there was no one near to see the deed.
"I took the new will and held it in the flame of the candle till it was entirely consumed. Then I blew the cinders, so that they scattered about the room and would not attract attention."
"Oh, Syd!" This in a kind of gasp from Roy.
Rex said nothing. He was sitting upright now, still seeming to see before him the face of "No. 131," Mr. Keeler's criminal brother.
"Yes, I knew you would all shrink from me when you knew," went on Sydney. He spoke in a voice that was almost hard now. It was as if it had become so from the spurring that was necessary to enable him to make his confession. "I shrank from myself as soon as the last piece of tinder had vanished from the candlestick. I could not bear to stay in the house. I hurried off to the undertaker's, and then stopped at Dr. Martin's to tell him that the miser was dead.
"He said something about the good fortune that had come to us so quickly. I shuddered and hurried home. But I could not sleep. I seemed to have become an old man in that one instant while I held that sheet of paper in the flame of the candle."
"That's the reason we did not see you at breakfast the next morning?" said Roy softly.
"Yes, I felt that I could not face you all just yet."
"And that is why you looked so terrible and fainted away when I told Scott Bowman about our inheritance at your office?" added Rex.
"Yes; I was planning all sorts of ways to fix things, so we needn't take the money. Then I saw it was too late. Now you know what has been on my mind all these months. I knew that my health was being undermined by the strain. But I did not care for that. I even hoped at times that I might die, because then I felt that you need never know."
"And— and was it anything in particular that made you tell us to-night?" asked Rex.
"Yes. It seems very strange how things come about, but then it often happens so. Do you remember, Reggi— Rex, telling me the name of the man who left your friend Miles with the Morriseys'?"
"Yes, and it was Darley, the same name you mentioned just now. And you fainted then, just as you did that time at the office. You don't mean that Miles—"
"Yes, I am almost certain that Miles Morrisey is really a Darley, the son of Maurice Darley, to whom all this money belongs. When I suspected this I knew that the end had come— that I must trace the thing down and confess."
At this point the carriage halted before the door of the house. Rex sprang out, then Roy, and both boys waited to help Sydney. But he made no movement to follow them.
"Aren't you going to get out, Syd?" asked Roy.
"No; I have no right to live among you any more. Now that you know, it will seem like having a convict in the house. I can go to some hotel. You can send my things to me and I will stay there till— till this is settled up and they put me away."
Roy stepped into the carriage and put his face so close to Sydney's that the latter felt the smooth flesh against his day's growth of beard.
"Dear old fellow," whispered Roy, "you must come. We haven't cast you off. And— and besides, we want you with us to help us decide what to do."
"Don't be so good to me, Roy. I can't bear it."
But as he spoke, Sydney got out, and the three went up the steps.
Nothing was said as they ascended the stairs. There was danger of disturbing the household.
"Good night, Syd," said Roy, when they reached the top.
He put out his hand, but Sydney did not see it in the darkness.
"Good night, Roy," he responded.
Rex said nothing, but when Sydney's door closed behind him, he drew Roy into his room with him.
"You must stay with me to-night, Roy, "he said, and he began taking off his coat.
"Why didn't you speak to Syd before we came in, Reggie?"
"I couldn't, Roy. I feel awfully sorry for him. But he's committed a crime, and I can't help but think all the while of Mr. Keeler's brother."
"It's terrible— awful." Roy's face was pale; he looked almost as Sydney had looked at one time.
"What are we going to do?" Rex sat down on the edge of the bed, a despairing droop to the shoulders that he usually carried so squarely.
"We must give up everything to the rightful heir."
"But where shall we go then? We've sold our house in Marley and spent the money we got for it. We'll be worse off than we were before, Roy. Oh, dear, why did you ever look up at that trestle and see that old man crawl out on it?"
"I've wished I hadn't before now," replied Roy gravely.
"The money hasn't made us happy as you expected it would, and now see what misery it has brought. But I suppose it's wrong for me to regret doing what I did. And don't think so hard of Syd, Reggie. Remember that he did what he did, not for himself, but for us."
"I'll try my best, but I don't feel now as if I could ever touch him again. And think what he has brought us to! Poverty, after just giving us the taste of wealth." The twins did not sleep much that night.
A HARD DAY FOR THE TWINS
Roy and Rex slept far into the morning, which was Saturday. They were awakened finally by a persistent knocking on the door and Jess's voice:
"Are you boys going to sleep all day? Have you forgotten we were all going to Marley at eleven o'clock? And here's a note Syd left for you, Rex. He's much better and gone to the office. Get up now or we shan't save breakfast"
"All right," responded Roy, and he shook his brother and told him about Syd's note.
"I wonder what it's about," murmured Rex.
Then he saw it on the carpet, where Jess had poked it under the door. He snatched it up eagerly and read:
"I am going to telegraph for Miles to come in and stay over Sunday. He must be told while he is here. He will get to the house in time for dinner."
"I wonder if he expects me to tell him?" muttered Rex. "Great Scott, it'll be mighty queer to entertain a fellow in a house that really belongs to him!"
"And I wonder when mother and the girls are to be told," added Roy. "Do you suppose Syd could have told mother already?"
But there was no sign that Mrs. Pell knew from her demeanor when she poured the coffee for them.
"I must go down and see Syd about it," said Roy as they went out into the hall together. "You'll have to go to Marley without me."
"And I'm sure I don't want to go," added Rex.
Their decision carried dismay to the hearts of the girls.
"You must go, boys," said Eva. "The Minturns have invited us to lunch, we have accepted, and it would be very impolite for you not to go now. Besides, Jess and I can't come home after dark alone."
"If you knew what I do you wouldn't feel like going either," returned Rex, not heeding the warning glance cast at him by his brother.
"What do you know, Rex?" asked Jess, looking from one twin to the other with a keen gaze. "There is something between those two," she added, turning to her sister. "You take Roy, Eva, and I'll take Rex, and we'll make them up and confess."
The method of "making" employed was to tickle the boys, who were each very susceptible to this form of torture. This was terrible. To have the thing turned into a joke when it was so fearfully serious. Roy spoke up quickly:
"We'll tell you in a little while now, girls," he said. "But seriously, I think you had better give up this trip to Marley."
"But what excuse will we send the Minturns?"
Roy hesitated. This was a poser.
"Can't you put it off?" he said finally, as a makeshift.
"Of course we can't, without giving a reason for it," returned Jess. "I think you boys are just as mean as you can be. Because you've got up some scheme between you that you'd rather do than go with us, you just won't go."
"Ah, Jess, it isn't that. It's— but I can't tell you now. Come, Rex, we'd better go after all. One day won't make any difference."
Rex objected a little longer, but was at last won over.
"I don't suppose we could tell them without Syd's consent," he said when he and Roy had gone up stairs to get their coats. "But it'll seem exactly like dancing on our own graves."
"Oh, not so bad as that, Reggie," returned Roy.
The day was a terribly hard one to both boys. All sorts of plans were discussed and adopted for future good times.
Charlie and Ethel Minturn were invited up for a week from that day to take lunch and go to a matinee.
"They'll never be able to take them," Rex found opportunity to whisper to his brother. "I wish we'd told the girls about it this morning."
"So do I, but I didn't like to till Syd said he was ready."
The Minturns could not fail to notice that the twins had something on their minds. Ethel spoke of it.
"Oh, it's some piece of boys' mischief, I'll be bound," exclaimed Jess, whereupon Roy and Rex exchanged glances and their hearts sank lower still.
On the way home in the train Rex announced that Miles Morrisey was coming that evening to spend Sunday with them.
"But I thought you and Roy were going to a meeting of your school society," returned Jess. "If it hadn't been for that we could have stayed to dinner at the Minturns'."
"Great Scott, I forgot all about the Stylus!" exclaimed Rex. "Well, it don't matter; we'll have to give it up any way."
The coming of night seemed to bring with it to Reginald a realizing sense of all that the new order of things would mean. He relapsed into thoughtfulness, in the midst of which he half sprang from his seat with an inarticulate exclamation.
"What's the matter, Rex?" inquired Eva. "Oh, nothing," he responded. But the color deepened slightly in his cheek, and he looked furtively at Roy.
The cause of his start was the remembrance of what Sydney had said about the name Darley having caused him to determine to confess.
"If I had not gone off with Harrington that time," was Rex's inference, "Miles would not have come into my life, and we would not now be facing poverty."
But the blush was the shame at the idea that he would be willing to enjoy the fruits of Sydney's crime provided he did not know about it.
"I always feel sorry for Miles when he comes to see us," remarked Eva.
"Why?" asked Rex quickly.
"Because he seems to feel embarrassed, as though he were out of place. He isn't in the least. He has very nice manners, and I'm sure is a perfect gentleman. But what he needs is a little more self assurance."
"Oh, he'll get that fast enough now," said Rex, and then looked fixedly away from the scandalized glance he knew Roy was directing at him.
"I'll go home with the girls if you'll wait at the station for Miles, Rex," and Reginald was glad to be left alone for a few minutes.
"It doesn't seem as if it could be so," he mused, as he walked up and down the pavement opposite the Public Buildings. "Miles and I to change places!"
People hurrying to catch outgoing trains jostled him; the clang of the cable car bells sounded every few seconds; the noises of the city life he loved were all about him.
"Where shall I be a year from now?" he asked himself.
But it was nearly time for Miles's train. Rex turned and went up the stairway to the left of the station building. As he did so, he passed a familiar face coming down. It was the boy who got him into trouble with the Chinaman that July afternoon six months before.
But Rex felt no resentment now.
"If that was the only trouble I had to think about!" he told himself enviously.
Of such power is comparison.
Miles's train was on time. Rex saw Miles standing on the step of the forward car, ready to spring off at the first opportunity. His face lighted up to a still greater radiance at sight of Rex waiting for him.
"I didn't think you'd come to meet me," he said, as he shook hands. "It is awfully good of you. I'm so glad to see you."
There was no doubt of this. One could read it at once in the way he looked at his companion.
"I suppose you were surprised to get Syd's telegram," remarked Rex. "What did he say in it?"
"Come and spend Sunday with Rex," answered the other. "I was here only a little while ago, but I was glad enough to come again. It is ever so kind in you to send for me."
"Didn't you think there might be any other reason for our sending for you?" asked Rex, after an instant's pause.
A troubled look crossed Miles's face.
"No; what do you mean, Rex?"
"Don't you remember what you found out a little while ago— about the man who left you with the Morriseys?"
"Oh, my father. Has your brother heard anything about him? Is that what you want me for?"
"It's about that; yes. I'm not sure whether your father has been found, but something else has been found that belongs to you."
"And what is that?" asked Miles eagerly.
A QUEER FISH POND PARTY
Miles stared at Rex as though he did not comprehend the meaning of the word.
"A fortune?" he repeated. "What fortune?"
"Why, your fortune, to be sure," returned Rex.
"But I don't understand," went on Miles. "How can I have a fortune?"
"Easy enough, since your father has one. Syd knows all about it. You're a lucky fellow, Miles. It's somewhere about half a million."
Miles looked very grave for half a minute, then a smile broke out over his face.
"Come, Rex," he said, "I see through your joke, so you might as well drop it. You oughtn't to have made the sum so high if you expected me to believe it."
"It's true, all the same, Miles."
But Miles still shook his head and declared he should wait to believe till Mr. Sydney told him all about it.
"I wonder if Syd will tell him the whole thing tonight?" Rex asked himself, but Sydney was not home to dinner.
There was a note from him to Rex, however, asking that he and Roy and Miles should meet him at the Continental Hotel that night at eight. This threw Rex into a great state of excitement. He knew that the crisis was at hand.
Roy took things more quietly, but inwardly he was none the less excited.
"Syd wants us to meet him down town," he said as they rose from the table.
He had been waiting for Rex to tell Miles, but the other had not yet brought himself to do it.
"Where are you going?" Jess wanted to know. "To the theater?"